Hi, I'm Dave Mulder. This is my website, where I write about user experience and product design.

Originally Published: April 29, 2010

Lightweight design > everything else

Modern, graphic-intensive websites are spiraling toward a future of design in which everyone feels like they need to gussy up their interface with pomp and circumstance. These interfaces tend to contain loads of interactive content and rich graphics. They’re emblematic of a high-fidelity approach to design.

Heavyweight design is meant for the high-resolution screen. Quickly loading a heavyweight site requires a broadband connection, and a modern browser with JavaScript enabled and plugins updated. This is the only way to ensure the site’s full functionality.

See the problem?

High-fidelity interfaces, by their very nature, are bulky. Bulky design has no place in a future that will soon see mobile web outpace desktop web. Though improving, mobile web speeds aren’t broadband, and mobile device displays are nowhere near the pixel perfection offered by cinema monitors.

So how’s that heavyweight homepage working out for you? The audience running broadband on their oft-updated, recently-purchased rig probably loves your site. But for everyone else, maybe it loads slow. Maybe it doesn’t load at all.

The future of design, at least until CSS can do the sensational, is lightweight. Lightweight designs are inherently simpler. They load lightning fast and work well on mobile devices.

When our visitors get tired of the flash and dance, they will long for low-fidelity. Be ready to provide it.

And if you’re going to continue providing high-fidelity, at least try to optimize load times.